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WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump said Tuesday that he sympathizes with embattled Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, who has denied an allegation that he sexually assaulted Christine Blasey Ford when they were in high school.
"I feel so badly for him that he’s going through this," Trump said during a joint White House press conference with Polish President Andrzej Duda. "This is not a man that deserves this."
Kavanaugh's nomination is sitting on a knife's edge in a nearly evenly divided Senate, where Democrats and Republicans are fighting over whether a scheduled hearing featuring Kavanaugh and Ford should go forward without further investigation by the FBI.
Trump said earlier Tuesday that the FBI should not probe the claim because he believes the bureau does not want to do that.
"I don’t think the FBI should be involved because they don’t want to be involved," he said. "If they wanted to be, I would certainly do that."
Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the top Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, forwarded Ford's claim to the FBI, which promptly sent it to the White House as an update to its background notes on Kavanaugh.
Since then, Ford has detailed her story to the Washington Post, Democrats have insisted that the FBI investigate the matter before any further action is taken on the nomination, and the Judiciary Committee has scheduled a Monday hearing with Kavanaugh and Ford as the only planned witnesses — even though Republicans on the panel have said they have not been able to get a response from Ford.
Ford wants the FBI to investigate her allegation before she testifies in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee, according to Debra Katz, who is one of her lawyers. Ford's attorneys called a probe the "first step in addressing her allegations" in a Tuesday night letter to Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles Grassley, R-Iowa.
Katz did not immediately reply when asked via email whether that means Ford would only testify after an FBI investigation or under subpoena.
Earlier in the day, committee Democrats slammed Republicans' handling of the matter in a letter to Chairman Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, Tuesday.
"Given the seriousness of these allegations, and the scrutiny the committee is under, we are disappointed you decided to move forward without consulting the minority, without confirming witnesses, without demanding the FBI complete an independent review, and without allowing the committee to perform its duties," they wrote.
During the press conference Tuesday afternoon, Trump ripped into Feinstein for waiting until Kavanaugh's initial hearings were over and the committee was ready to vote on whether to send his nomination to the full Senate before alerting the FBI to Ford's allegation.
"You don’t wait till the hearing is over," he said.
Still, Trump said he is supportive of a Senate process that elicits testimony from Kavanaugh and Ford.
"We should go through a process because there’s shouldn’t even be a little doubt," he said. "Hopefully the woman will come forward, state her case. He will state his case. ... Then they will vote. They will look at his career, they will look at what she had to say from 36 years ago and we will see what happens."
It wasn't just Kavanaugh who garnered sympathy from Trump.
"I feel terribly for him, for his wife, who is an incredible lovely woman and for his beautiful young daughters," the president said. "I feel terribly for them."